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Last week, I attended my first ever blogging and social media conference. I signed up back in May and have been very active on the groups, boards, Twitter parties and chats since then. So, when I arrived at the conference, I already felt like I “knew” people! It was very strange experience to “recognize” people that you have never met in real life.
Above and beyond all of the “business” and networking part of this, all the learning more about blogging and how to make my blog better, the conference was at DISNEY WORLD and I was able to take my family with me! That was the element that sealed the deal!
Below is my VERY LONG recap of the fabulous experience that was #NicheParent14. I know, I know…it’s really long, but that is just how great the entire weekend was.
I arrived at the registration tables just about 10 minutes before the first session began. There were still several people in line and more filing in behind me, so I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one arriving at the last minute. In fact, once I got there and took a minute to take it all in, I realized that @LaLiQuin, Lisa from the Bronx, was standing in line in front of me! We had been following each other on Twitter and Instagram for weeks, maybe months. I tapped her on the shoulder and introduced myself and she gave me the biggest hug! Ok – Ice: Broken! I have at least one friend here!
I went on through the line and stepped up to Nadia, the founder of the network. When I told her my name, she jumped up and gave me a huge hug! Any jitters of being the new girl here were now gone! The people in this network are top-notch and I honestly never felt like the “new kid” again!
Once registration was complete, we had round table discussion groups and there were SIX to choose from! SIX!
I am a planner, so I had a plan for this whole trip – except for the agenda! Being a newbie at conferences, I was so enthralled with all the topics to be covered that I couldn’t decide what I wanted to attend. But, I landed at the table headed up by Laura Fuentes (Shout out to another Mama from the Northshore!) of @Momables.
I was a little nervous about all of this because, a deals/savings blog is a little different from most others that were represented at the conference. So, I was hoping that just maybe, Laura had seen mine around and would be able to help me specifically because she was local. I was the first person to arrive at her table, so we chatted a little bit and got to know each other. But guess who came and sat with me? LISA!! So, again, the warmth and familiarity of everyone was so wonderful!
Laura’s session was about “How to Grow your Blog”. That’s something that ALL bloggers want to do. Laura gave us some FABULOUS tips and showed us how they are successful on her blog.
My favorite tips from this session were:
1. – Old content is only Old News to YOU!
Being a savings/deal blogger, the vast majority of my posts are very time sensitive and may be sold out before I get them published sometimes! But, I have changed the way I focus on that lately and I realized that I have lots of posts that tell you HOW to save money in different situations rather than just PRINT THIS COUPON NOW! So, I realized that I have a good bit of “Evergreen Content” that I can use to engage my NEW followers.
2. – You do not own Facebook! You own your blog!
This was a huge thing for me because Facebook is where the majority of my followers are. That’s where they look for me. There are even some that think I am only a Facebook page and don’t know what a blog is! Therefore, having just hit the 10,000 FB follower milestone and watching my traffic take a nosedive off a cliff because of it, I have been stressing A LOT, over getting my traffic back where it needs to be. Back where it was when I was in 4-digits!
Laura pointed out that my blog is my home. That’s where my content lives and that’s what I own. I can’t really control Facebook, I can only pay them. Being a self proclaimed tightwad, I really don’t want to do that! But, she explained some things that I can do to not have to pay them so much. It really alleviated a lot of the stress I had been feeling over that exact subject the past month since I reached the bight 10K.
3. – Find out what your audience wants. What are your top posts?
I ask my readers what they like frequently, but I hadn’t thought about researching what the top posts were and focusing on those topics to keep people happy. So, that is something that I will be doing soon. Looking for high traffic, evergreen content and re-posting it.
Overall, this was a wonderfully informative discussion and I felt so much better when the first one was over because I felt relevant, included and not completely lost!
After this session, we were escorted by bus through the back entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We were led through the park to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. By the time we set out on our adventure, many of the animals were either asleep or had been taken to their quarters for the night. So, while it was not the very best safari tour I had ever experienced at Animal Kingdom, the ride was fun, the weather was nice and the scenery with the sun beginning to go down was breathtaking.
Once we returned from our ride, we were led to the seating area below the FlameTree BBQ restaurant. With plenty of seating near the water and Everest rising behind us, it was a stunning backdrop for our first dinner. You hardly notice the construction equipment! HA! This will be a fun PhotoShop activity soon!
Our meal was really delicious. I had been on a Paleo-esque diet for about 2 months, and while I had planned to blow it at Disney, I was thrilled to see that I didn’t have to do that! We had a feast that was friendly to any diet you could have been on! There were plenty of proteins, red meat as well as fish, plenty of vegetables, starches, and desserts. I was really impressed that the menu was so accommodating to all and it was really very good, too!
After dinner, Mickey and Minnie had arrived and the boys were able to get a picture with them. This was a treat because the lines were not HOURS long like they might be in a regular setting in the parks. The VIP treatment has some sweet perks!
We headed back to the buses and got an early night because I knew that Friday was going to be a LONG day for my family!
I woke up Friday morning re-charged and ready to go! I got dressed, kissed my family goodbye and started my walk to the Convention Center. I had about a 5 minute walk from our room in the Casita to the conference area. While some people didn’t seem to like the size of the resort, I thoroughly enjoyed my morning walks. The Coronado Springs resort is massive, I won’t say it isn’t. But, it’s beautiful and the weather was so perfect. I wouldn’t have minded being a little further away so that my walk lasted a little longer!
We were greeted by a wonderful breakfast buffet of muffins, pastries, fruit and yogurt, plus plenty of coffee, juice, tea and more. I sat with Maria, who is another local mama, and her roommate, Laura. Laura introduced herself as the “one with the cartoon character profile picture and no shame!”. She was very friendly and I laughed at her a lot over the course of the weekend.
After breakfast, Nadia welcomed everyone and then introduced Kim Garst who is the CEO & Co-Founder of Boom Social, and also is listed as one of the Top 50 Social Media Influencers by Forbes! Pretty impressive! Her keynote session was wonderful and I noted that she also mentioned some of the same tips that Laura had covered. Everyone is on the same page!
Kim gave us some great tips on sites to use for things that we don’t enjoy doing so that we can focus on the CONTENT of our blog! After all, that is your product. Content is King! She also talked about “Evergreen Content” and how you should keep it on the social media radar! She gave lots of great tips from her tons of experience and success!
After Kim was done, we had our first series of breakout sessions and I chose to sit in “Tips on Becoming a Successful Mom-preneur” which was held by the co-founder of Mabel’s Labels, Julie Cole and Viviana Vethencourt who is an Empowerment Coach, Psychologist, Mental Health Counselor, Motivational Speaker and Life/Work Balance Advocate.
This was such a great session for me. I have so much on my plate and I always feel like I’m running and never catch up. I plan to stay home and work, but I end up with a sick kid at the doctor, or at a last minute school event where my child is speaking! (Seriously, both happened this week!). So, these busy moms and their tips on balancing everything that we have to handle, made me feel like I was more normal than I was overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still overwhelmed, but now I know that so are most of you! There is a strange comfort in that.
Julie kept repeating: THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT! Meaning, if your child went to school today without his hair combed, it’s not going to kill anyone. You write a blog, you aren’t performing surgery! (Well, most of us aren’t!) It doesn’t matter if the house is a disaster, if you had to pick up fast food for dinner tonight because the stove broke or that you didn’t get your Fall decorations out by October 24 (nope – still not done!), THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT! And THAT is what really matters.
I could hear that resonating later that day when I realized that once again, my husband got to be the cool one and take the boys to the pool because I was too busy. I’m always too busy to go to the pool. I felt a little bit of envy over that. But, when I got back to that room, I found this. Then, I knew: THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT!
Viviana made it a point to say that if you have too much to balance, you HAVE TO SCHEDULE EVERYTHING! If it isn’t on the schedule, it won’t happen! She said to schedule breaks and take them. Doing laundry between blog posts, does not constitute a break! That one hit home! Many days, the buzzer of the washing machine is the only time I hear anything outside the clicking of my keyboard! This was a fabulous session not only for bloggers, but for moms in general and I am so glad that I chose it!
Next, we had a Tribe Building activity where we had to find people who met certain attributes on a bingo board. We had to swap business cards and find a square that we met on their board. Networking Bingo! Brilliant and I met MANY more “Twitter Faces” that I recognized. I gathered more than 20 business cards, connections and new friends in that activity!
After Bingo, we had the lovely ladies from Painting with a Twist as the afternoon Keynote Speakers. I was so proud to have so many Northshore Mamas represented at the conference and Cathy and Renee were funny and engaging as they shared how they were friends first by chance and then were able to apply their friendship to build their brand today!
Following their speech, we had another delicious lunch with our families and then we headed next door to the family activity with Painting with a Twist! I am very familiar with PWAT and the process, obviously. But my husband and boys had never painted. So, it was very fun to watch the different little fishies emerge from my family. We had a blast and I have booked a party at the local studio for my readers’ children to come and paint in December.
My little one and I even took the opportunity to show our #DisneySide with our paintings! We added Mouse Ears to our fish!
After the painting session, we grabbed a Mickey Ice Cream Bar and headed back to our room to change for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Since that wasn’t actually a conference event, I will leave the details for another post.
Even after getting back to our room at 1:40am, I was taking my gorgeous morning walk before 8:30 on Saturday morning. I’m not editing the pic below – there is no filter, and it was taken with a 2 year old iPhone 5. It was just THAT gorgeous that morning.
The first session on Saturday was Alberto Sardinas who explained how we have to use the lessons of our story to reach our goal. This was very relevant to me. My blog was born because I learned how to coupon and save money on just about everything out of necessity! It has been a journey that grows and progresses year after year, but when I learn something new, it becomes a blog post that can teach my readers how to overcome the same problem.
Next, I sat in on the Cyberbullying panel. This session Blew. My. Mind. I work in criminal prosecution in my “real job”, and the fact that what happened to these ladies and their daughters had not been already prosecuted just baffled me. So many questions that I had about their situation and how this all started with an 11 year old girl who slept over…..just….mind. blow.
Some great tips that they left us with were:
Change your passwords routinely and make them complicated.
Don’t let ANYONE use your devices or your children’s devices.
Set up a GUEST network if you have people who want to use your wifi. Don’t let them on yours or give out the password to your home network.
These things seem so simple, but they are so very important. It’s a scary world that we live in and it only gets scarier year after year. So, take the time to protect your family and your children. You never know who is looking to tap into your life and wreak havoc! Be Smart!
The next session I took was about Vlogging and Video. It was hosted by Jose Sanchez, who founded Piccolo Mondo PR, the first blog / vlog established in Puerto Rico by a parent to share the experiences with their children. He was so much fun and I can only imagine that his children have the BEST life! They seemed to be completely on board with his fun and I was glad to see that. Sometimes I feel like I am forcing my boys to be a part of this journey. So, to see someone at such an advanced level and to see his kids smiling as they watched themselves dancing on the screen…..THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT!
Once again – Everything seemed to mesh together and the last session’s highlights would resonate in the next.
Jose had us video ourselves and some people even posted theirs right there in the conference room. I admit….I didn’t post that clip. But, I had already posted one VLOG and I thoroughly intend to do more of that in the future. I have also posted a video of my kids showing off their fish paintings and inviting my readers to bring their kids to the event at PWAT. So, I’m on my way! (PS – I also noticed that those video posts get lots more Facebook views than a picture post would!)
30 Changes for GIANT Growth with Matt Cherry, founder of iBlog Magazine was next.
As with Laura’s session, I was hesitant to take this one because I felt that it may be over my head. But, it was not. In fact, I have more notes from this session than from any other. Matt talked about recycling “Evergreen Content” (third time we’ve heard about this!!), he talked about focusing more on your blog subscribers (email lists) than social media followers (Sound familiar?) and about the wealth of connections that you can find on LinkedIN.
He talked about the importance of answering problems and giving a call to action. He touched on the trend of video and vlogging as well as scheduling and having an Editorial Calendar to keep it all straight!
So many sessions linked back to others. It was great to see that we were all on the same page and all in agreement of what is working and trending in the blogosphere!
Finally, the VP of T-Mobile, Gabriel Torres gave the closing keynote and my brain was completely overflowing by this point. I am ashamed to say that I do not have a single word written down from this session. But, I did enjoy his speech. I was just on brain-overload at this point.
Once we were done with the afternoon sessions, we got ready to head over to our closing event at SeaWorld for their Spooktacular Halloween Party. We were surprised when we got on the bus and found these cute little guys in each seat. My little one has slept with “Pengie” every night since!
Once we arrived at SeaWorld, we were greeted by a couple of rescue animals from their program and also by this guy! The kids were given goodie bags that I thought had candy, but found out later that it was a huge cookie and all the tools needed to decorate them! Another cool surprise!
We had a nice meal and got to meet several of the people who make SeaWorld what it is and who work actively in the rescue operation. Then, we headed out to the park where we encountered some very interesting species of fish!
Next, we made our way to the Shamu show, which in my mind is the essence of SeaWorld. I wasn’t going to miss it! We sat mesmerized by these gorgeous creatures then headed back to the buses. On the way back to the resort, we got to watch a film about one of the dolphins that Sea World had rescued. It was very interesting and made the trip seem to fly by in seconds!
On Sunday, we begrudgingly drove back home. What a long 11 hours it was after such a fabulous 3 days! I learned so much and I met so many great people. I can’t believe that after 6 months of planning and anticipating, that it is over. I told Nadia and Teresa that they have spoiled me for any other conference! I truly can not imagine a better way to spend 3 days than learning more about your industry while at Disney World with a few hundred people who get what you do!
I can not wait until next year!